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Home > Natural Resources > Disaster Resources

Lt. Governor Supports Community Fire Recovery Plans

Southern California fires leave charred houses and habitat that must be cleaned up effectively to prevent future problems

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Fire Recovery Efforts in San Bernardino, San Diego and Los Angeles Counties

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, met with representatives of San Bernardino County, San Diego, Los Angeles County, federal, state and local officials to review strategies for community clean-up of fire- ravaged Southern California neighborhoods.

Garamendi brought together state and local experts who coordinated debris removal after the devastating Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe this past June to outline for San Bernardino County officials the successful steps undertaken to speed fire recovery and enable the South Lake Tahoe community to begin rebuilding.

"After a devastating disaster, homeowners face the daunting challenge of cleaning up their properties before they can begin rebuilding their lives," said Lt. Governor Garamendi. "The successful community clean-up effort undertaken after the Angora fire offers homeowners, insurers, and state and local agencies a streamlined approach that saves time, money, and headaches in the critical weeks ahead."

"The victims of this fire have suffered immensely as a result of this disaster," said San Bernardino Supervisor Paul Biane. "Yet in spite of these dramatic losses, and the difficult weeks and months ahead, Californians are coming together, working together and preparing to rebuild communities together."

Following the South Lake Tahoe fires, State and County officials orchestrated a successful, coordinated clean-up effort which cleared hazardous debris from all burned properties within 40 days, a dramatic improvement from previous disasters where clean-up has taken months. The coordinated effort allowed fire survivors to achieve the first step in the rebuilding process quickly, efficiently and safely.

"I am pleased to see that San Bernardino local officials, along with federal and state leaders, are working together to develop a community effort which would save time, money and curb fraud," said San Bernardino County Supervisor Dennis Hansberger.

The community solution presented today would allow homeowners to avoid the time-intensive process of screening contractors, protect homeowners from price-gouging and potential fraud by unscrupulous contractors. Such an approach has the additional benefits of cost-effectiveness for insurers and achieving environmental quality assurances from state regulators as part of the coordinated process.

Garamendi called the meeting to educate the local San Bernardino officials and encourage all parties to come together and begin a community effort which would allow homeowners to avoid the time-intensive process of screening contractors, protect homeowners from price-gouging and potential fraud by unscrupulous contractors. The Angora fire debris clean-up approach discussed by Garamendi has the additional benefits of cost-effectiveness for insurers, and achieving environmental quality assurances from state regulators as part of the coordinated process.

The proposed county/state debris-removal plan, modeled after the rebuilding efforts in Angora, brings property owners together and involves two phases of clean-up. Phase one brings affected residents together to sign up for a single debris-removal contract and structural debris removal begins. Phase two of the plan calls for the removal of hazardous trees in burned areas that remain a threat.

"I am moved by the speed with which all of the necessary agencies came together to rebuild the South Lake Tahoe community," said El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago. "Being intricately involved in the successful debris clean-up following the recent Angora fires I believe there is no finer example of public sector service than the rebuilding efforts presented today. I am pleased to be part of a process which translates that success to the fire-ravaged San Bernardino neighborhoods."

Rebuilding Homes in Southern California

According to Garamendi's webpage, homeowners have the opportunity to make new homes as energy efficient as current technology allows. To that end, the efficiency requirements included in new Title 24 building codes are an excellent start, but to achieve the most energy savings and the least environmental impact, homeowners can look to the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

The California Public Utilities Commission and the Energy Commission have been adding surcharges to the utility bills of Californians for decades. These are intended to help California reach its goal of using at least 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. Starting from the ground up, homeowners have the golden opportunity to deploy alternative sources of energy. Roof-top solar photovoltaic systems, passive solar systems, solar water heating and wind systems are alternative sources that are eco-friendly and have long-term cost saving benefits because the fuel is free.

With new construction, there may also be opportunities for small generation energy sources that could serve a collection of homes, rather than including separate systems at every site. Utility companies that administer these programs and are replacing some of their existing damaged distribution infrastructure have the chance to work with local communities to creatively increase alternative energy.

Earning incentives to encourage energy efficiency in residential and commercial structures, these companies are in a great position to lead a community-wide effort to assure the best techniques and systems are adopted. With the cooperation of contractors, economies of scale can bring down costs of rebuilding and retrofitting homes. Communities in the United Kingdom have adopted this model and serve as working examples of the endless possibilities available when communities share their resources and make a commitment to alternative energy sources.

As the rebuilding phase begins, I am hopeful the impacted communities will work with solid waste managers to clear and rebuild with a focus on zero waste, recycle whatever is salvageable during debris removal and build with new materials that are non-toxic, long-lasting and reusable.

As the fifth-largest economy in the world and historically an environmental leader to the world, California has a golden opportunity to prove itself once again – from devastation to rebuilding cleaner and greener than ever. Global climate change reminds us we are all interconnected, that our energy use and consumption patterns impact the entire planet.

A clean, green new start is only possible when we all work together: representatives from the Governor's Office, local and regional elected officials, state and local water and land-management experts, utility and insurance companies, contractors and their trade associations. We must act now, and we must act together to rebuild our Southern California communities to ensure a healthy California tomorrow.

Lt. Governor Garamendi has extensive experience in wildfire and natural disaster issues, having served as a State Senator representing mountainous areas of Northern California, including the Lake Tahoe area. Garamendi also served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior during the Clinton Administration, and for eight years as California's elected Insurance Commissioner, where he fought to ensure that homeowner policies give California consumers the disaster protection they deserve. Most recently, Garamendi served as the Acting Governor when the Angora Fire broke out in South Lake Tahoe this past June.

CONTACT:
Lt. Governor John Garamendi
www.ltg.ca.gov/

Visit www.rebuildyourlife.ca.gov for the most updated information about rebuilding efforts in California

Rebulding after fire



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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